Beautiful – The Carole King Musical
I was asked by Stagedoor app (more about them later) to review ‘Beautiful’ The Carole King Musical. Beautiful tells the life story of Carole King mixed in with her songs, along with a few others from that era, in particular by Barry Mann & Cynthia Weil. It follows Carole King from selling her first song to Donnie Kirshner, to meeting her husband to be and song writing partner Gerry Goffin at school to their number ones and from their marriage difficulties to her solo concert at Carnegie Hall.
There is not a huge amount of storyline in the show and after the first 20 minutes act one focused primarily at looking at the hits Carole and Gerry write rather than any relationships between the characters. I also felt that at parts it didn’t get to the heart of Carole as a person and I failed to fully understand what drove her after all those years to finally get the courage to go it alone as a solo artist. I must admit that maybe I did not fully appreciate the show due to my generation…I appeared to be one of the youngest audience members (Cards on the table I’m 31). Maybe as I wasn’t even a twinkle in my mothers eye when Carole King released tapestry I am not their target audience as the remainder of the audience were on the feet for the curtain call.
Joanna Woodward is the understudy for Carole King but as is often the case in the West End now I wouldn’t have know and loved her performance as Carole. Carole has to go on a huge journey in the show as you follow her from her school years into her 1930’s and the success of her solo career. You follow her relationship with her mother, Gerry and friends and watch as they all develop in various ways. Joanna was excellent at differentiating between the different periods in Carole’s life and I could have easily have believed that it was a different actress in each period of her life. Alan Morrissey played opposite Joanna as Gerry. I enjoyed Alan’s performance in the earlier parts of Act 1 as the youthful Gerry with bundles of swag however I found his development to an philander less convincing along the plot didn’t give him a huge opportunity to really develop the turmoil Gerry appeared to be going through.
I also enjoyed Lorna Want’s and Ian McIntosh’s portrayal of Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann. They had some great chemistry between them and their friendly rivalry with Carole and Gerry was well played out.
The set was well designed and in particular the design of Kirshner’s office building when Carole first arrives gives the firm visual appearance of a hit factory enhanced by the ‘1650 Broadway Medley.’ At times I would have liked the movement to be sharper. I couldn’t help but compare some of the numbers to Memphis and the dance appeared to lack the vigor and passion of that show. That being said all of the singing by the various groups/artists such as the Shirelles, The Drifters, Janelle, Little Eva and the Righteous Brothers were spot on and evoked all the sounds of the 60’s.
I would recommend this show if you are a fan of Carole King and/or enjoy the music of the 1960’s. As is often the way with jukebox musicals the music carries this show. Luckily for Beautiful Carole Kings music is stunning but personally I want something a bit more from a musical.
You can find out more about tickets for Beautiful (and many other West End shows) through the Stagedoor app. This app is a must have for all theatre lovers and it allows you to do many things such as follow performers, directors and writers so you know what’s on as well as receive personal recommendations. A big thank you from me personally for sponsoring this review of Beautiful.
Have you seen Beautiful….do you agree or disagree- I would love to hear from you?